artist // designer // entrepreneur

Finally! Asana Proves Simplicity Can Get Better Than Basecamp.

Bascamp, 5, 10 years ago was a great product but it feels unadvanced and non-progressive. Everytime I speak of this to colleagues, they say, 'basecamp is simple' and I often feel it's an excuse. Since when can't simplicity be beautiful. The same people who tell me this are the same people who run around hating Android and loving iPhone because iPhone is beautifully simple. Well, this is the kicker: Basecamp is to Asana as Android is to iPhone. So, to all my friends who've used simplicity as the basis of their argument now have a problem, Asana. Asana is my counter argument.

Basecamp is simple. So is Asana.

@themadray Well, they are two different beasts. Basecamp is simpler, but I do like Asana better for what we do. - @youens

I respectfully disagree with my partner on the 'basecamp is simpler' bit. Asana is 5x more beautifully designed and 10x more intuitive. Asana also does a brilliant job of fusing task management with project management. A task is a discussion, a thread but also a checklist. Basecamp has this same function but under a separate tab, another option for the user. Asana eliminates the problem of redundancy, decreases options so you focus on tasks -  whether it's a discussion or pure task. Often times you can be faced with this dilema in many products: "Should I post this as a discussion or task?, Do I post here or there?" Too many choices can become cluttered. This is one of my points against Basecamp's claim to simplicity.

And they're the same beasts because their purpose is the same: project management.

It's only when you use a product like Asana, you really realize that Basecamp isn't simple. It was and is clever branding, marketing and positioning. This is the area I always respected about team Basecamp.

It's about the experience

All that aside, I find it difficult using a product that I feel I can build in a month. I know anyone reading this will give me shit for saying that but before you do, I'll repeat. I find it difficult using a product I feel I can build in a month.

For those who don't get it - it doesn't matter if it's technically feasible or not. It matters how Basecamp makes me feel as a user. When I buy a leather jacket, I feel fucking awesome wearing it. When I buy a nike sneakers, I feel cool wearing it. When I buy an iPhone, I feel fucking smart because it's a great decision. Basecamp in no way makes me feel this way or any way similar. When I wake up in the morning, my PM tool should not be the reason I don't want to check it. Get it. Isn't this what we call UX?

Asana is designed

And so do you if you're reading this. There's no way anyone can look at Basecamp and then Asana and say Basecamp is better design. No way. Basecamp looks and feels like something from 1999.

Asana is innovative

Yes. It is. Many of the PM tools out there look like Basecamp because it's so successful. Asana took another approach, one that's relatively popular right now. They simply employed 3 coloums so that content is much more accessible, requires less loading of pages and generally easier to load. Products like Trello tries to innovate but consistently proves Basecamp right because they're overly complicated.

The Psychology of Lists

Asana brilliantly puts the psychology of list to use. Everyone loves list because in using it, you feel good checking things off, marking them as complete, etc. Their approach was to make this their center focus, an approach that could work for them. You check a task off, you move forward. It's simple. It solves the issue of project management tools getting overwhelming.

With Asana's design, I've managed to focus because it's all task oriented that are listed. There are often cases where a task is incomplete because it's awaiting response. Asana's 3 column layout & task oriented design strategy allows you to spot these cases easily - they could improve - but it's much better than many.

A better mobile experience

While Basecamp has a mobile component, I don't think it's modern. Asana recently updated their mobile experience. Despite not being a native app, it's a better experience than Basecamp. Clearly once it's native, the experience will be on par with the Facebook app. Can we say Basecamp has such an experience?

Basecamp is overpriced

My first argument against Basecamp is that it's unreasonably priced. I always feel that I could buy Invision Board or vBulletin, make a nicely design skin and use it. Yes, I agree normal people won't do this but wait... 90% of their users aren't normal in many ways. Why settle? Basecamp lacks experience. User experience. Before you say its simplicity is its experience, spare me the bullshit. Join Asana. Shoot me your e-mail and I will invite you if you don't have it.

Why am I picking on Basecamp

I'm not. I really like Basecamp, what they stand for and what they've built. I chatted with someone on this matter and I'm told maybe it's an unfair comparison. People often don't like change so Asana has the advantage of using better technology and new design thinking on a blank slate while Basecamp risks upsetting a loyal userbase. It's a lot riskier to upset your existing user base with a change in design. Digg died a painful death because of this.

My rebuttal... Basecamp has a strong enough brand in the space to make changes and get their users on board - eventually. It's comparable to Facebook. People kick up a storm but they never leave. Why couldn't Basecamp get away with it? I remember one time someone writing something to this effect, "if Basecamp decides to sell socks, they would sell."

What about Apple? From iPhone to iPhone 4S. There's been phenomenal changes, some that are upsetting but with each release, records are broken. It can be done.

Asana has a long way to go

Asana is far from complete and like every product can improve. It's not going to topple Basecamp and might even appeal to a different type of audience. Asana, if they've done their research, should know Basecamp has a unique brand and story, one that many associate with. Their positioning is well engrained into the minds of their users. So in many ways, branding and marketing is essential.

I've always delayed writing an article on Basecamp because I never really could find a compelling argument. Asana is it. Now you can look out for an article on how Asana is getting to complex in about a year from now. This is what happens to many products - something Basecamp never falls for. All in all, I'm excited to see the response to Asana and how Basecamp deals with it.

What are your thoughts? If you're going to share, I'd hope you've at least given Asana a try. Click to Tweet.